The Democratic Party leadership is stepping up its public relations push to obscure the sharp political differences between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
This much was evident even before Sanders’ White House visit last Thursday when Josh Earnest, spokesman for President Barack Obama, claimed the rival candidates “have campaigned across the country on a platform that’s quite similar.”
Such an assertion may come as news to Sanders supporters, or to Clinton supporters, or to anyone who even heard their debates over economic and foreign policy.
Earnest said both candidates want to expand health care coverage to more Americans, reform the immigration system, fight climate change, carry out the Iran nuclear deal and “grow the economy from the middle out.” He cited higher minimum wages, job training and equal pay for women as common goals.
The spin fell far short of subtle. Clearly, Obama aimed to tread lightly on Sanders supporters while nudging their candidate out of contention. He sought to deliver a timely if shallow unity message.
After all, neither Obama nor his former secretary of state would benefit out of alienating the party’s rebels — especially before she tacks to the political center for the general election against Donald Trump.
But in fact, the chasm between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns still looms large. Sanders — who spent his political career without enrolling in the party — got as far as he did exactly because he offered an alternative to her centrist tilt.
Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist while Clinton says she’s a “progressive that likes to get things done.”
He talks about breaking up large banks and making public colleges tuition-free, which she does not.
Sanders has criticized Israeli behavior toward Palestinians; Clinton spoke of reaffirming “a strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security.”
He agitated earlier and harder on wage levels than she did and proposes to expand Social Security by raising top income tax rates, a measures she does not support.
The task of actually writing the party platform lies ahead — and consensus could prove tricky.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), who’s been aligned with Clinton, chairs the Democratic National Committee. The Sanders camp has clashed with her. And a Sanders ally, Tim Canova, is challenging her in a primary over national issues.
Wasserman Schultz has vowed that the convention “will be the most representative and inclusive in our history.”
It was against this backdrop that Sanders met with Obama, who shortly afterward endorsed Clinton. Sanders said he looked forward to discussing with Clinton how they can work together to defeat Trump, whom he attacked as a bigot.
But the exit dance has a way to go.